Breathe in… Breathe Out
The Best Breathing Exercises to Manage Stress
Look up. There’s a giant pile of paperwork stacked up on your desk. Look Down. Look up. There’s brake lights piled up a mile in front of you and your kids are screaming in the back seat. Look Down. Look up at the To-Do list on the fridge that keeps getting longer and longer. Look Down. Look up at the mess in the family room, smell the turkey burning back in the kitchen, and notice the clock that’s counting down the minutes until the in-laws arrive. Look down. Now breathe in and breathe out. Each of these situations causes different types of stress. Some cause your heart to race or your muscles to tense up or sour your mood, whatever the type of stress or the effect, there is a breathing exercise to help get you to a better state.
You’d be surprised at how many types of breathing exercises there are, and even more surprised at how complicated they can get. But you’d also be surprised at how there are breathing exercises to relieve almost every type of stress. Here are a few of our favorite breathing exercises that can help you through any type of stress situation.
The Angry Stress
These two breathing exercises will help you through the stressful times that cause your mood to turn for the worse, such as when you look up at a huge stack of paperwork on your desk that needs to get done today. The purpose of these exercises are to revitalize you and exhilarate your mood.
Since we are not trying to calm down during this exercise, our breaths won’t be deep or drawn out. This exercise involves taking quick breaths back to back to back, only for about 15 seconds, the first time you try it at least. The process of inhaling and exhaling very fast increases your heart rate, getting your blood flowing, and boosts your energy levels.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Now this one sounds goofy, and feels goofy to do, but I promise it works. Covering your right nostril with your right thumb, take a deep breath in, then using your ring finger, cover your left nostril, uncover your right nostril and exhale. Repeat for as long as you feel necessary. This exercise increases your focus, alertness, and energy.
The Tense Stress
This next exercise releases muscle tension caused by stress. It’s good for the times your cramped up in the car and there’s no place to stretch out and have a minute to yourself.
To start, make sure you are sitting upright with your spine straight. Inhale for one count, then exhale for one count, inhale for two counts, exhale for two counts, repeat this process up to five counts and then start over. Used in Zen practice, this breathing releases tension throughout the body and clears your mind by focusing it on the breath counts.
The Anxious Stress
This is the stress that causes your heart and mind to race, sending you into panic mode. This could be caused by a situation similar to the Thanksgiving crisis described earlier. This stress is the quickest to set in, but luckily the easiest breathing exercise to perform.
This exercise requires you to breathe deeply from your diaphragm, not from your chest. While performing the exercise you should be able to feel your belly rise during inhaling and fall during exhaling, hence the name. The deep breaths oxygenate your entire body and slow your heart rate, calming your body and mind in the process.